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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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January: Oh, What A Night!
January 2018

It was more than a banquet.
It was more than a reunion.
It was, in fact, one of the greatest celebrations ever in pool.

Yes, there have been many Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame induction banquets in the past. Many were incredibly memorable. And, yes, some were attended by more people. But the 2017 BCA Hall of Fame 50 Gala was, to me, the top industry gathering ever. Nearly 300 pool fans, players and industry leaders packed into the Oceanside Ballroom at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on the evening of Dec. 4, for the formal inductions of Darren Appleton and Tom Rossman. That alone would make for a special gathering.

But the 2017 Hall of Fame gathering was also a celebration of the first 50 years of pool’s hallowed shrine, and in celebration of that milestone all of the game’s living Hall of Famers were invited to Las Vegas. Of the 32 living Hall of Famers, 20 made the trip (not counting the yet-to-be-enshrined Appleton and Rossman), making it the largest single gathering of BCA Hall of Famers ever.

As someone who was around when all of these players and contributors were in their prime (save for Eddie Kelly, who starred in the ’60s and early ’70s), seeing these legends gathered in a single room was like going back in time to the ’80s and ’90s, when the top men and women pros often competed at the same time in a single ballroom or poolroom.

What a joy it was to watch the unbridled enthusiasm of the fans in attendance as they jockeyed for position to get photos and autographs. (I got as caught up in it as anyone, at one point corraling the Hall of Famers for one massive selfie! See below.) We all have egos, and I think it was cathartic for the Hall of Famers to bathe in celebrity again. What tickled me even more, however, was watching the Hall of Famers, themselves, pulling their fellow legends aside for selfies and autographs. Many had not seen each other for years. Stories and recollections were exchanged, lies were told and laughs were had.

Of course, the stars of the night were Appleton, enshrined in the Greatest Player category, and Rossman, who was honored in the Meritorious Service category. Both got to experience the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of being presented with a green blazer, gold ring and etched plaque symbolic of their inclusion in one of the most select groups in all of sports.

Still, while the evening was a great party, it was also incredibly important. Even though understandable, it is a shame that it had been so long since the game’s greats were assembled like that. Pool, through no fault of any one person or organization, doesn’t take care of its own. And getting them together was no small feat, and came at considerable expense.

But, in fact, it needed to be done. The history of the sport is important. The heroes of our sport are important. And it is important that we parade that history and those heroes around the room as often as we can.

For longtime fans of the sport, it was an opportunity to see their heroes again. Maybe more importantly, it was an opportunity for new fans and the younger players (many of whom were in Las Vegas representing Europe or the U.S. in the Mosconi Cup) to see the heroes of the sport they love. This game is rich with history and heroes and we need to keep that in the forefront as much as possible. I’ve long said that if the sport had organized tours again, aspiring members should have to pass a history test to earn membership. I’m only half-joking.

It is, in many ways, the responsibility of the industry to keep the game’s history alive. And clearly many in the industry understand and embrace that responsibility. The BCA Hall of Fame 50 Gala was a monumental undertaking, but through the BCA, United States Billiard Media Association and the generosity of many industry leaders, it was a sensational success.

I sincerely hope that it doesn’t take another 20 years to have another event like it.




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